Yesterday, at one of the local Portland historical libraries--while pursuing other leads--I stumbled across a paper written by yet another local historian (or lay historian) which included a list and brief description of several of my past-life works as Mathew Franklin Whittier. They were all within the series, "Ethan Spike," for which he has been identified as the author. There were four in his list that I hadn't found, all within the radical Boston mid-19th century newspaper, the "Chronotype." He mentions having accessed it at that very library, and sure enough, they had the entire run of the weekly version of that paper. The weekly edition would publish the best of the previous week.
Having gone home to check his list against mine, and to get my lunch, I returned to the library that afternoon. First of all, I photographed those four pieces (photography is permitted for members), and then I started going through the entire volume. I found quite a bit of material which may also have been written by Mathew. As I key it all in, I will make that determination. I have digital folders for those piece which I'm not reasonably certain about. However, at this point, with some 1,200 of his published works digitized, I know what indicators of his authorship to be on the lookout for. Some of them I've mentioned in this blog. For example, not only does the character "Col. Peltiah Peabody" mention Mathew's fictitious town of "Hornby," but he has a double-P name, and that name is slightly cartoonish. I have theorized that Mathew was nicknamed "Peter Pumpkin" for his love of pumpkin pie; and he used variations on these initials for many years. He also had favorite colloquialisms, words and phrases, like a reference to horse racing speed, "2 40." And, of course, the colloquialism, "He was some pumpkins."
I came back with about 250 images, or probably a third that many articles. It appears, for example, that he was writing regular letters to the editor from New York City, up until mid-1849. I knew that he had split with his second wife (an ill-advised family-arranged marriage), early in 1849, and that he had moved, for a time, to Philadelphia in mid-year. But now it appears he lived in New York City for some months before then. I had noticed these letters earlier, and felt drawn to them, but at that point in my research I had no reason to think he was living in New York at the time. Later, I learned that he had lived there for several years, when he was much younger. So last night, before bed, I checked the dates. The New York letters end about two weeks before the first Philadelphia letter. I won't make a final determination until I key in all those New York letters, because there may be clues for or against, scattered amongst them.* It only takes one good clue in either direction. If, for example, he mentions his five sisters, then it isn't him (unless he's deliberately smudging his trail). But if he uses "some pumpkins" and "2 40" several times, we've got him. These phrases were in general usage, but they weren't all that common, and when the same writer uses them multiple times, the odds increase proportionately--especially if four or five of Mathew's pet phrases show up in a series.
These are things no-one would know to look for, until I began amassing the data in my own research. But I can't get anybody interested. I wrote to a third local historian yesterday, and haven't received a response. I used the "R" word (reincarnation), because I'm so easily Googled, I figure I might as well tell them as have them find out that way. I suppose there is an "automatic shut-off valve" in the brain, which immediately labels you as unworthy of respect, the minute you use it. No matter whether you sound rational, write well, have a documentary for sale to universities with Films Media Group, or have a master's degree in counseling.
I also have to brace myself, because I do know that the process moves from being ignored, to being ridiculed, to finally (and perhaps posthumously) being accepted and even celebrated.
Now, with all due respect to the lay historian whose paper listed Mathew's "Ethan Spike" letters and their spin-offs, it's fascinating to me how his mind works. Specifically, he is locked in to official historical reality, even when evidence to the contrary is staring him right in the face. I know that in 2014, he poured through the same physical volume that I was scouring, yesterday. Admittedly, one doesn't want to speculate too much in a scholarly paper (especially if one wants to be taken seriously by professional historians)--but one can ask questions within such a paper. I've seen it done many times.
Mathew's only known production is said to be this "Ethan Spike" series; and it is described as depicting the dialect of an ignorant Yankee backwoodsman. However, this historian correctly identified the character "Col. Peltiah Peabody" as one of the series, because he mentions Mathew's fictitious town of "Hornby." But Col. Peabody speaks in perfect English. Therefore, Mathew had created a town populated with various types of folks, from the ignorant to the educated. He should be described as having created a town, not as only writing in the one style, which was often imitated. But nobody, that I know of, imitated his creation of an entire town. At most, some of them imitated him to the extent of creating a family. What Mathew did, in this regard, is more like the "Simpsons."
Describing Mathew as an author who created Ethan Spike, would be like characterizing Matt Groening as the cartoonist who created Homer Simpson. It's true, but only in the sense that Ethan Spike, and his ignorant speech, became popular, and accordingly Mathew wrote more of his letters. That particular style was widely imitated, Ethan Spike was in demand, and in response Mathew would write as that characer. But his original concept--and this is something I sensed very early on, and wrote about at a time when I had scant evidence--was to populate an entire town with its full range of characters. People simply didn't understand what he was doing, and he never had the time or opportunity to fully develop it.
There are, in fact, pieces written by Mathew in the "Chronotype" which are not connected with the "Hornby" series, like the letters from New York City. Some of his signatures are obvious, like one letter which swaps his initials around, (as I recall) "WMF" instead of "MFW." But there are also scathing satires with signatures so generic as to give absolutely no clue to their authorship--which are clearly Mathew's work, in hindsight. One of them lampoons Caleb Cushing's involvement in the Mexican-American war. He has signed it "Clam Chowder," which is about as generic New England as you can get. And for very good reasons--Mathew's brother, John Greenleaf Whittier, had basically groomed Cushing for political life--created him--as a bulwark against the District of Columbia going pro-slavery. Or, at least, that's how I read the history. Mathew had to take special care to avoid being identified as the author. The piece apparently pleased radical editor and friend Elizur Wright so much, that he had two splendid cartoons made for it. Keep in mind illustrations were expensive, and there were precious few done for the "Chronotype." (I'd say these are the only ones, but I haven't done a thorough page-by-page search of the entire paper.) Here is the "Great Immortal Coot-Sing," with one of his favorite admiring "squaws,"** at the great send-off as he prepares to go to war:
And here's the preacher who was officiating at the event, supporting the Mexican-American war, "Parson Scratch Worm McClaws":***
Apparently the artist was squeamish, and re-named him "Parson Anti-Vermin McClaws," which substitution renders it meaningless. (This sort of censorship must have been a constant thorn in Mathew's side.) By the way, if you ever look up Mathew's parody on "The Raven," note the similarity in how the "Vulture" is depicted. I think Mathew must have shown this to the artist by way of giving him some guidance.
There's another character who writes in "Mathewsian" satire against the war--some of Mathew's best work--named "Bellicose Smythe." Our historian did pick up on this one, again, because he mentions "Hornby." Mr. Smythe, also, speaks in proper English. But the historian missed the obvious. Repeat "Bellicose Smythe" several times--you'll get "bellicose myth." And what initials does the name reduce to?
One of these is particularly brilliant, as a concept. Remember that I have said--in regard to Mathew's plot idea which, as I believe, he gave to Samuel Clemens for his brother's 70th birthday party--that Mathew could generate fresh, ingenious plot concepts at an amazing rate. Here, his character reports the planned fireworks display in Hornby, which will out-do the Boston display for support of the Mexican-American war. It's full of inside jokes and period references, but you can still appreciate the level at which Mathew is working. Here's his list:
PROGRAMME OF PYROTECHNICS AT HORNBY.
From sundown until nine o'clock powder crackers will be occasionally let off; at the ringing of the bell the display will commence with a
1. Grand exhibition of Tin Lanterns.
2. Display of "Blue Lights," such as were used at the Hartford Convention;--from the original recipe in the possession of the Editor of the Boston Post.
3. American Glory, supported by magnificent columns of skulls and cross bones.
4. An illuminated transparency, representing Gen. Taylor "giving the Mexicans Hell."
5. A correct representation, in gold and silver lace work, of Gen. Scott holding a Roman candle, as he appeared at Vera Cruz.
6. Flights of Pigeons and Serpents.
7. Representation of Gen. Koo-Shing attacking a regiment of Mexican Ladies.
At the opening of the piece a regiment of ladies to the number of several hundred is discovered on the extreme right. Gen. Koo-Shing appears at the left, a little lame from his recent fall. The General advances briskly to the charge, stopping occasionally to allow the artillery of his eyes to have its full effect. When opposite the centre, the General executes the difficult manoeuvres of fandango and chasse, brandishing the ring bestowed by the Massachusetts Ladies, and discharging several vollies of smiles in quick succession. The General appears about to attack the centre, but changing his intention he performs the Pas de Danube, and rushes upon the right wing. Great confusion prevails; the enemy yields, and falls before the victorious arms of our countryman. The General returns to camp victorious.
8. Triumph of Mars and Venus.
9. Representation of the bursting of a shell in the interior of a Mexican dwelling.
10. Flight of Serpents.
11. Flights of Sub-Treasury Rockets with showers of gold rain.
12. Procession of the skeletons of those who have fallen in the Mexican war, bearing banners with the inscription, "This is Glory."
13. Temple of James as opened by James K. Polk. This magnificent structure, of gold and silver fire, is supported by Editors of war newspapers of both political parties, surrounded by a statue of Henry Clay as he appeared when wishing "to kill a Mexican." The columns in front are composed of the Reverend Clergy who view the war as affording opportunities of converting the Mexicans, and who consider "every soldier a colporteur." The names of Scott and Taylor are emblazoned upon the wings, surrounded by circles of red fires.
The whole to conclude with an exhibition of the
Bombardment of Vera Cruz!!
I do know some of these references. Caleb Cushing was a lady's man; and he received his "war injury," to his leg, while stepping accidentally off a curb to permit a Mexican woman to pass by on the sidewalk. And yet he thought nothing of killing them in their homes.
Have you connected the dots between Bellicose Smythe, who writes of "Gen. Koo-Shing" and of Hornby, and "Clam Chowder," who writes of the "Immortal Coot-Sing"? No, one didn't imitate the other. It's manifestly the same writer. For one thing, nobody else could write like this, or dared write like this.
No one seems to have understood what Mathew was doing, at the depth that I have; and his best work was, of practical necessity, published anonymously, and hence never credited to him. All the historians who encountered him have worn the blinders of official history; and those blinders only allowed them to see so much, and no more. How much of my deeper understanding of Mathew's work has to do with scholastic diligence, and how much has to do with having the same higher mind, is difficult to determine. I didn't always take the correct interpretation, immediately. Sometimes it had to dawn on me. I made some very embarrassing mistakes, failing to initially identify his work. In hindsight, it was the same dynamic--my intellectual assumptions, at that point, side-tracked me from seeing the obvious.
For example, even though I knew it was one of Mathew's secret signatures, I dismissed an asterisk-signed poem as not being Mathew's because it wasn't in his accustomed style, because it occurred earlier than I had ever seen that signature before, and because it seemed flowery and trite to me in a cursory first read. Later, I realized it was not only his poem; it was his tribute to his late wife. The style was, perhaps, one she might have written in, herself. My perception of it being trite changed immediately, when I realized it was written to her in heaven. But how could I have failed to recognize such a profoundly personal poem? Again, on some level I think I did recognize it, but I talked myself out of it because of what I thought I knew, intellectually, at the time.
So I suffer from the same difficulty as the historians, only I am in the position to bring more to bear on the subject.
After keying in this entry and proofreading it to my satisfaction, I turned my attention back to the new pieces I'd photographed in the library, yesterday. I'm starting with those that the lay historian had caught, which my researcher, or I, had missed. Here, we see a new character, one "Filo Handspike," writing a letter directly to "Ethan Spike." He wants to know where Ethan has been, and whether he went with Caleb Cushing to the war. He describes the paper as though it is an individual (i.e., its editor, Elizur Wright), who attacks all the things he holds dear--which is to say, all the social ills and crimes he holds dear. Mathew and Wright apparently were close friends, and held each other in very high esteem. Wright must have asked why he hadn't written "Ethan Spike" recently, and this is his reply:
We sympathise deeply with the writer of the following letter:--
Bosting, March 11th, 1847. Ethan Spike, Esq., Hornby, Me.: Deer Sur,--Xcuse the libburty but I wants to no whats the matter with you? Have you got the fall-sickness or the spring-halt that you aint said nothing about the many interesting abominations thats bein going on this winter. You havent changed yer prinsiples and gone to Kalyfornia with Kurnel Kushing, have yer? We looked for yer down here about the time of the grate meetins the Irish and the Chinese. Sum sed you was a comin down with Kurnel Pettiah Peabody to see Kurnel Kushing present that sord to Kurnel Rantool and sum sed it was a slandre and that you was comin to make a speach in funnel hall. The truth is, Mr. Spike, we're in an orful fix down here in Bosting, and ef you don't cum quick or send Leftennant Libby or Aunt Judy Kyer or sumbody that can call things by rite names and git us out of this ere snarl, why the perlitical masheen will stop oltogether, or we shall have to cut the Gard-iron not by dizzolvin onion. There is a man down amung the lick-her stores in Devinsheer street named "Kronytipe" that duz lay it on sum, but then he aint very genteel for he calls our refactorys rum-holes, our guverners restorators (no, that haint the word nuther, Traiteurs which means the same thing), our representertivs doe-faces, our grate loryers humbugs, our hotell keepers merderers, our shippin marchunts (that is, sum on em) kid-nappers, our clergymun big-guts (which I think very unpropper); in a wurd he is so ded set agin all the repectable ways of gitting a lively-hood that there's no use. He's ded fur war, but its war agin these good things and pursins, and he wunt have nuthin to do with the ollive branch ontil he's derassinated the fixins of sosiety and ondermined religun and polertiks,--and I bedout me if he duz then.
In these tryin times, then, we want to heer wot you hev gut to say, for sum fokes down here says you do look into into fy-losserfy uv things pertikler deep, and sum o' the more ankshus on us, specially the wimmen, want to no where all these effairs will finully originate. So, if you railly aint gone to Texico, but are takin the sensus o' Hornby, plese let us no sune what your fokes say about the country and the Congress.
You can see, by this, that Mathew would create a new character, and a new pseudonym, on a whim. He might never use this character again; or, like "Bellicose Smythe," he might use it two or three times. When I say that I have painstakingly identified dozens and dozens of Mathew's different pseudonyms--some of which were one-offs, or used for very brief series--I'm not just blowing smoke. He did this throughout his literary career. As I have noted before, his first editor, Joseph T. Buckingham, mentions this habit toward the end of his memoirs (while disguising Mathew's name as "Moses Whitney").
Let's take a look at just this sentence: "The truth is, Mr. Spike, we're in an orful fix down here in Bosting, and ef you don't cum quick or send Leftennant Libby or Aunt Judy Kyer or sumbody that can call things by rite names and git us out of this ere snarl, why the perlitical masheen will stop oltogether, or we shall have to cut the Gard-iron not by dizzolvin onion." I know the back story, here, from both study and intuition. "Call things by their right names" comes from the deep mysticism that Abby had taught him, perhaps Hermeticism, Alchemy, or the Kabala. Mathew would throw in such references occasionally (as when he adopted the pseudonym, "Trismegistus"). The "Gridiron knot" is a term I'm unfamiliar with, but "dissolvin onion" obviously means the dissolution of the Union. This is 1847. Mathew has already associated himself with William Lloyd Garrison, a "disunionist." He even submits one or two letters (anonymous, of course) supporting this view, and Wright, as the editor, argues against it.
Since this entry is already too long, I thought it might interest some of you to see one of Mathew's original "Ethan Spike" letters, written to Elizur Wright. This is the only one I know of in existence, and it is preserved in a historical library. I will tell you that it triggers a "thrill" of past-life recognition--in my feelings, I remember writing this. What I remember, is that it was a total blast. I completely forgot all my sorrows--which was rare--in the creative fun and challenge of writing these letters. I also note that there is only one correction, and that mistake (a word left out entirely) is the kind you'd make while copying something over. I have said that Mathew crafted these "Ethan Spike" letters meticulously. Obviously, this is a copied draft--and even this doesn't quite match up, word-for-word, with the version that was printed. Presumably, unless Wright edited it after receiving it, this one wasn't quite final.
I wrote, recently, that I had interviewed several leaders in the field of paranormal research, for my internet radio show, "Metaphysical Explorations," and I mused that at least one or two of them might have looked me up, and expressed a reciprocal interest in my own work. Very soon afterwards, a "fishing" e-mail from one of those interviewees showed up in my mail box. Of course, he wasn't really writing me--someone had hijacked his e-mail address. But it occurred to me that it might be a synchronocity, so I wrote him, accordingly. He purchased my book and intends to read it, when he gets through with two he has on his list. I warned him of the length of my own book, and made suggestions as to how he could cherry-pick it and still get the gist of it. So hopefully at least one prominent researcher (really, an advocate for paranormal research, I would say, and interested especially in the history of mediumship), will be reading it.
Since I now have plenty to keep me busy, keying in all this material from the Boston "Chronotype," and determining which may actually have been MFW's work, I might not write these entries on a daily basis for awhile. There are plenty of back-entries to read, accessible through the "Archives" link at the bottom of this page, which some of you have already discovered. I think the last 2-3 weeks' entries have been particularly good. I've provided evidence on both counts, i.e., of the validity of my past-life memories, and of Mathew Franklin Whittier's authorship of some famous works. I've edited and re-edited those entries for two or even three days after keying them, to the point that they read as smoothly as my book does. This is roughly the level of writing you could expect, if you purchase my book. Remember that, while he blithely dismissed my research, Tom Shroder, who was at that time an editor (not just a writer) for the Washington Post, commented that the book was very well-written. Actually, I cleaned it up quite a bit after the version he saw.
Is this a talent carried forward from past lives? Obviously. Mathew, himself, was a literary prodigy, which I can demonstrate with an example of his writing at age 14. I can prove it was his writing, by comparing it with similar pieces he wrote 20 years later. There's hardly any discernible difference in quality. Therefore, Mathew was bringing in talents from still-earlier lifetimes. So I have been at this awhile, and obviously, it comes naturally to me. Once I began keying in Mathew's works, my former writer's block--at least as regards prose--disappeared completely, and the floodgates opened. It is as easy for me to write these entries, as it is to breathe. Sometimes I make stupid mistakes, which I then correct on re-read. Same with Mathew (having been raised on a farm). And these entries are not like other blogs, or, not like most other blogs. Each one has a theme, or several themes--and those themes are developed. Each of the entries forms its own persuasive essay (even if my readership is so stubborn, as to refuse to be convinced). If people were rational, this blog should be resulting in e-book sales.
But I do think that Society is deeply conditioned to respond solely to hype. In Mathew's day, hype was called "fluff," and the practitioners could be isolated and identified. You had honest businessmen, and then you had medical quacks and such. The head of all the shysters was P.T. Barnum. Now, everybody has knuckled under, so that if you don't use Barnum's techniques, you are ignored. Your product doesn't even register, amidst the unholy din of screaming phonies. If you dare to price your books at $12.00 and $7.00, as I do, you are looked upon, I suppose, as a rank amateur. "Stupid idiot, he doesn't even know enough to price his books correctly."
No. I refuse to price my books "correctly."
No promises, but this may be the last entry for awhile, unless something noteworthy occurs (like one of those historians actually answering my e-mail). Enjoy the back entries in the Archives.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*As of 7/27, I am in the process of keying in the first letter, i.e., the first letter I photographed (because I didn't start with the first installment). I'm certain, by writing style, that this is MFW. So far there is one more clue--the writer knows editor Elizur Wright personally, well enough to refer affectionately to his particular sense of humor. This series is an example of something I intuitively recognized several months ago; dismissed as implausible, as I had no reason to believe that Mathew was in New York City at this time; and now see is almost certainly his work. Most of these are unsigned, which is very unusual for a letter series like this. Clearly, it is a close personal friend of the editor, who wishes to remain strictly anonymous. One of these letters is signed with the single initial, "B." Later, B.P. Shillaber would create a character representing Mathew during his unfortunate second marriage, "Blifkins the Martyr." As of the letter I am keying in, now, in the April 21, 1849 edition, Mathew had recently left that marriage. So it's possible that it was Mathew who came up with this name--or, perhaps, derived it from some other source and applied it to himself. My guess is that somewhere in literature, there was already a "Blifkins." Mathew would have styled himself that way as regards his second marriage, after which Shillaber took it up and wrote a series based on the stories that Mathew had told him, in private. However, an online search for "Blifkins" reveals only Shillaber's character. I have no idea why this signature, "B.," wasn't used consistently (I'll have to check, but it may have appeared only the one time).
**My apologizes to Native Americans for Mathew's insensitivity to them, here. His conception of this group was complicated--he wrote in sympathy for their situation at times, and lampooned the idea of "manifest destiny," but he had been brought up on frightening tales of Indian massacres in Massachusetts, and being raised Quaker, he was against violence. So his feeling toward Native Americans was ambivalent on this point. In the Portland "Transcript" of April 15, 1843 appears a story he wrote entitled "The Indian Bride," which tells of a white man raping an Indian princess who had nurtured him back to health (apparently, taken from a true story), which symbolizes the white culture "raping" the Indian culture--so, clearly he was aware of the sociological dynamics. Regarding "manifest destiny," I saw a Native American elder's take on that, recently, in a Youtube video--he said that they had been told "America will come and go."
***Mathew, a deeply spiritual person, saw the Mexican-American war as being rank imperialism and state-sponsored murder; and the clergy who supported it, as the worst kind of hypocrites. Mathew reserved his most scathing satire for hypocrisy.
Music opening this page, "Remote Outpost," by the author
(with assistance from Garage Band software),
theme music for talk show "Metaphysical Explorations"